WV Teacher’s Walk-out Continues through at least Monday
Over the weekend, the Pocahontas County Schools, as well as schools across the state, announced that they would remain closed on Monday because of the school employee walk-out.. There has not yet been any indication if this will continue past Monday.
On Friday afternoon, which was the second day Pocahontas County Schools were closed, we talked with Denise Sharp, the President of the local American Federation of Teachers (or AFT.)
“We are currently in Marlinton on the bridge hosting these rallies in support of ALL public employees’ insurance” said Denise. “It affects anybody who has state insurance. We are also concerned with some other bills they have up, but they have kind of put those on the backburner because they just want to make us look like we’re just out for pay raises-and we are Not! And they want to make it look like they have already fixed PEIA, which they have NOT! It is currently just on a fix for the next 16 months. So they really haven’t done anything to it but slap a band aid on it. Some of the bills that they have coming up are going to directly impact the children in every school district – your children in this County. One of the bills they got out is dealing with teacher licensing and teacher certification. It deals with anybody can teach, as long as they have a degree, any subject area in any class. For example, I have a Science certification for Middle School. You have to have those certification to teach those grades, that subject. If this bill passes, I could go to the High School with absolutely no additional education levels and be qualified to teach a Calculus class. Which to me is utterly preposterous and not acceptable. Another one is the Seniority Bill that they got up. During the Riff and Transfer Season when schools are making very hard decisions to try and figure out who and what jobs they can do without (this bill) would eliminate the seniority. It can also be considered a money saving tactic because the people who have been there the longest also make the most money.”
- Do you see this strike continuing into next week?
- “I had been hoping against all hope up until last Wednesday when I got the call at 3:00 o’clock that we would not have to do any of this because the children are our biggest concern” answered Denise. “And so if the legislative branches of our government cannot come to some sort of agreement that is reasonable, I foresee it continuing. And if that is the case, as AFT President, I will be in close contact with the other (Union) Presidents, Kathy White and Tina Sharp with their organizations and we will be discussing over the weekend what is our next step. There have been a few plans we have discussed, but there is nothing placed in solid structure yet. So if people are saying we are going to do a complete strike or we are going to do a ‘rolling walk-out’ –which means that certain counties go out certain days, and you don’t know until 4:00 o’clock if you’re the county- none of that has been predetermines as of yet, so we won’t know for sure what our actions will be until the legislature has the weekend to figure out what they’re doing.”
- The Attorney General may issue an order for school boards to order you back. Do you have a plan to deal with that?
A. “Right now we are hoping beyond hope that none of this happens, but we are thinking about that situation, which is one reason why I chose not to go to Charleston either of these two days and decided I needed to be in the County. Because the Attorney General was brought into the situation on Thursday and he was not supposed to be brought in until Tuesday of this upcoming week, and as of now we have not received any injunctions. My understanding is that the Attorney General can recommend that an injunction be put into place, however it has to be enforced by a judge. So that means it would have to go through the courts to actually start that process. And I am not a lawyer and I would rely on my representation through AFT as well as the other organizations representation from their legal departments as to how we go on from that point on. It’s all going to become a tricky, dicey situation. It’s like we are playing ‘chicken in the road’ and we are going to see who flinches first and we don’t want to play our hand too soon. A lot of this stuff is not being filtered out down to our levels as local Presidents yet just to keep everything under hat until we learn what the State Attorney (General) does, the State Superintendent does and the Legislative branches do.”